Fine Art Photography Daily

2019 Lenscratch Student Prize: Second Place: Dylan Everett


©Dylan Everett, Yellow Room, 2019

It is with great excitement that we honor Dylan Everett, Rhode Island School of Design, MFA – 2019,  with Third Place in the 2019 Lenscratch Student Awards. As the winner, he will receive a mini exhibition on the Curated Fridge, a Lenscratch T-Shirt and tote, and today’s feature on Lenscratch. Thank you to our sponsors and to our jurors Aline Smithson, Brennan Booker, Daniel George, Julia Bennett, Drew Nikonowicz, Sarah Stankey and Shawn Bush.

Most photographs are the rendering of a three-dimensional space flattened into two dimensions. The foreground is clearly separated from the background. In Dylan Everett’s photographs however, a careful sleight of hand turns collections of two-dimensional surfaces into three-dimensional experiences. Decorative surfaces reminiscent of William Morris’s wallpapers are folded into bodily surfaces, and objects float above. In one image, a blue decorated cake and two floral napkins appear to hover over a distant picnic scene. As the image unfolds, it seems that the picnic is a printed image, and the napkins and cake are sitting on that flat surface. Everett doesn’t directly reveal his elaborate deception, but instead playfully swipes a finger of icing off the cake – a sly reminder that we are trapped in a hall of mirrors, and there is no exit.

Dylan Everett (b. 1994 in New Jersey) is currently an MFA candidate in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. He received a BA in Visual Art from Brown University.


©Dylan Everett, Window #3, 2018

The preface to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a series of aphorisms about art and beauty, including the declaration that “all art is at once surface and symbol.”

If all art is at once surface and symbol, I create symbolic surfaces. Through the use of photo-collage and still life, my pictures collapse figure and ground into surface. Drawing from a range of references – my personal life, literature, art, pop culture – and cultural signifiers, these surfaces are loaded with symbols. The viewer is invited to decode these symbols, or at least to try.

The symbols in my images often function as homages to the people and things that I love or admire: LGBTQ-identified creative figures, gay icons, and personal relationships. This series of homages is held together by an aesthetic that strips away any sense of hierarchy among cultural signifiers. In my fabricated spaces, there is no distinction between highbrow and lowbrow, personal or famous, historical or contemporary. – Dylan Everett


©Dylan Everett, Clothesline, 2019

Congratulations on your Lenscratch Student Prize! What’s next for you? What are you thinking about and working on?
I’m still working on the photographs you see here! Although I made a lot of work that I’m really proud of in grad school, in some ways it’s like I have just scratched the surface. My work is indebted to pop culture, music, literature, personal relationships, beauty, and decor; my love for these things runs deep. I’m always dreaming up new visual ideas and complications of the photographic surface — new visual strategies to pursue my interests from every angle possible. Because my work involves a lot of collage and re-photography, sometimes it takes several rounds of shoots to arrive at a final piece. I might make a photograph that doesn’t sit right with me, and then weeks later I will realize that it is actually just part of a larger composition. I don’t usually think about what my next specific series might be. The ideas tend to evolve and talk to each other pretty fluidly.

In more concrete terms, I’d like to produce an edition of artist’s books at some point. I really enjoy making my photographs play off of each other, both formally and in terms of content. Books are such a wonderful way to make that happen. As part of my graduate thesis, I had to produce a small number of photobooks. The final product was really rewarding, but it also made me realize that I want to make another year’s worth of photographs and then work them all together into a proper artist’s book. I’m particularly interested in incorporating more symbolic tributes to creative figures who have influenced me, both as an artist and as a person. I have a list going in one of my sketchbooks with all the people I want to pay homage to, mostly LGBTQ artists and writers along with gay icons from popular culture (mostly female musicians). Out of all my photographs, most of my favorites (like Blue Room and Ribbons) were inspired by these figures.

©Dylan Everett, Cake, 2018

Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography….
It took me awhile to find photography. I always thought of myself as an artist growing up, but only through drawing and painting. I never picked up a decent camera until college, and even then I was pursuing a STEM degree. Luckily, I signed up for an introductory photography class on a whim one semester and was instantly hooked. Many areas of my hometown had been destroyed by a hurricane while I was away at school, and returning home with a camera in hand was such an incredibly intuitive way to both document and process my surroundings. After that, I continued taking photography courses and eventually ended up switching majors.
My undergrad work involved a lot of hand-cut photo-collages, along with photographs of still life set-ups that I constructed. At some point during grad school, I realized these didn’t need to be separate methods of working, so I started incorporating photographic collage elements into my still lifes and then re-photographing them. I began to think of every photograph as simultaneously still life and collage, which became a really liberating way to work. This interplay allows me a lot of freedom to keep thinking up new strategies for constructing a picture, and that’s why I will always keep returning to my camera.

©Dylan Everett, Ribbons, 2018

We are always considering what the next generation of photographers are thinking about in terms of their careers after graduation. Tell us what the photo world looks like from your perspective. What you need in terms of support from the photo world? How do you plan to make your mark? Have you discovered any new and innovative ways to present yourself as an artist?

Fresh out of graduate school, my peers are my most important resource in the photo world. Having a few close friends whose opinions you trust and respect is so important once the structure of regular studio visits and critique is gone. After that, I’d say Instagram is crucial. I don’t post my work on Instagram very often, but I have used it to forge connections with artists who I would’ve never met otherwise. It is also my primary resource for learning about opportunities — whether jobs, exhibitions, residencies, or grants — and for keeping up-to-date with what other photographers are working on. I always prefer to look at photographs in person, but I recognize that getting my name out there online is probably the best way I can start making my mark.


©Dylan Everett, Green Carnation, 2019


©Dylan Everett, Tattoo, 2019


©Dylan Everett, Mesh, 2018

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©Dylan Everett, Dust, 2018

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©Dylan Everett, Blue Room, 2019


©Dylan Everett, Red Roses, 2019


©Dylan Everett, Ironing Board, 2019


©Dylan Everett, Yellow Roses #3, 2018


©Dylan Everett, Orange Slices, 2018


©Dylan Everett, Dark Cloth, 2019

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